Friday, 28 March 2008 by Dr Maytel
If Auckland were Melbourne then Mexican Specialties Ltd would be overrun with food junkies and their insatiable appetites for "mom and pop" run food stores that mix ethnic authenticity with quirky service, cheap prices and hard to find locations. Food writers would be falling over themselves and arguments would probably ensue over who found out this quirky little Mexican Specialities store that is hidden deep in the suburbs , run by recent Mexican immigrants and only open for lunch Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. They would all however agree that Mexican Specialities was indeed special and worth supporting with continued patronage. If Auckland were Melbourne, high flying cashed up restaurant investors would probably have offered the proprietors a deal to move into renovated premises, closer to the city and open for lunch and dinner, as well as streamline the service, and the production and sales of all the homemade Mexican sauces and condiments made by the owner, and in a matter a months a new star would be born on the Melbourne food scene. People would sigh happily and proclaim...finally somewhere that makes 'proper' Mexican food
But as it happens, this is Auckland and not Melbourne and despite being open nigh on two years little has changed to this tiny hard to find Mexican store in Ellerslie...Aucklander's are not driving here in large numbers to eat the best Mexican they are ever likely to find this side of the Pacific.
Pictured above are the owners. Despite being under-appreciated by Auckland's cafe going crowds...they have expanded their business and now have their own line of fresh Mexican sauces and condiments which draws in regulars from Auckland's small Mexican and Spanish expat community.
in addition to the imported ingredients they sell from their deli/lunch bar
We went to buy some ingredients and have lunch....thankfully it was open because often and without notice they will close and pop back to Mexico
We started by ordering the chilli nogada....I had no idea what it was and Maria (behind the counter) explained that it is a dish traditionally served on Mexican independence day but at the store they seem to just serve it everyday because people like it so much. It is a grilled whole chili stuffed with slow cooked beef and covered in walnut sauce with pommegranites. I was sold....then we ordered the chicken mole. Maria shook her head and pronounced with her excellent Mexican accent "oh no...now you go too deep" meaning "you shouldn't order the mole as it is far too Mexican for you". Hock explained that he's been to Mexico and has and uncle that lives there, Maria relented and allowed us the chicken mole. We also ordered the chicken taco and beef burrito to share with Kinakojam and Erik and lastly K-jam ordered the tostada.
We were given a laminated tree sign and sat down at our table. Some fresh sauce arrived by a strange blond kiwi waitress who we never saw again
Dishes arrived one by one and intermittently....first was the tostada...covered in salad, dried fruits and nuts, it was light, crisp and refreshing
The chicken taco came next. It was simple, crispy and tasty, no cheese or sour cream here thank god...instead the side salad was sprinkled lightly with a yummy flavoured salt that the chef and owner (pictured above in the white shower cap) makes himself with salt, dried chilis and lemon powder. He said he plans to make it for sale in two months time
A bit later the beef burrito arrived, full of smoky flavours and mixed in with fried bacon
The mole was fantastic
But the highlight was definitely the nogada....my god......the sauce was amazing, not walnut tasting at all, just subtle and creamy.
Along side we had fresh lime juice that tastey lovely and grassy
There were no forks during our lunch experience, just knives and teaspoons. Maria popped out and said they were all dirty and that she must get round to cleaning some more. We nodded and continued to eat regardless. Hock, decided to let himself go and ordered one more things that never arrived because some Mexican patrons arrived and both the owners got caught up in a conversation. We were full anyway.
We went inside to buy some ingredients for a mexican chicken bbq and although we'd paid the bill before we sat down, the owners couldn't remember and we had to rejog their memory
No big deal though. We told them how much we loved their food and asked why they were only open 3 days a week for lunch. We were told that on Wednesday, they make the fresh sauces, they take Sunday off and on Monday and Tuesday they do the accounts. It seems like the perfect set up to me and probably a good thing that they're not in Melbourne. If you live in Auckland I recommend you go and order the chili nagado. It's on Celtic Cres in Ellerslie and it may be best to call before you go. The number is at the top of the post.